Lift Every Voice: Why Now Is Not The Time To Be Quiet

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Many years ago, my parents enrolled me in a camp near my childhood home. The children that attended the camp were mostly black with a sprinkling of Latinos. Besides the usual water gun fights, outdoor sports and movies – I learned something that summer. It was the goal of the camp organizers that every one of us campers learned the black national anthem. If you are African-American and you grew up in the states, you have probably heard or know by heart the black national anthem: Lift Every Voice.  The camp counselors said it was important that we knew it because we come from greatness and should be proud of who we are.

All I knew back then was it was a beautiful song and it made me proud of my heritage. What I didn’t know is this song I hold dear is really a poem by James Weldon Johnson that was set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson in 1899. I, also learned that the very first performance was on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1900 sung by 500 children who attended the segregated Stanton School where James Weldon Johnson was Principal.

I found myself thinking of this song recently – as I took stock of the massacres of black men and cops that have marred almost every shred of optimism and hope I have for the people of the U.S. at the moment. It got me to thinking that while it is the official black national anthem; it is a song that every citizen of this country needs to hear and embrace.

The lyrics of the anthem goes as follows (note: this is the short version):

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.

I won’t rehash what has gone on in this country in past two weeks, because I am not yet in an emotional place where it would be received well. Instead, I will draw everyone’s attention to the importance of speaking up when things have gone terribly wrong in the world. For as vocal as we have all become about everything from why the baristas at Starbucks can’t get your name right to the terrible service you’ve received at a restaurant – we are incredibly quiet and inconsistent on standing up for one another when injustice is plaguing one of our fellow citizens.

We raise hell if we sit on the tarmac for longer than five minutes during a flight takeoff. In some cases we take to airing our dirty, frivolous laundry out in hopes that onlookers will take pity and support us in our narcissistic moments of needing to be right in the court of “Facebook Friends” ( I really witnessed this recently). Insert hashtags, creative graphics and filters for an extra show of support for some of the world’s tragedies and you have in me a woman who is thoroughly fed up with the phenomenon of “social media activism”.

What is “Social Media Activism”?

It is when you meander from tragedy to tragedy (which often conveniently excludes tragic events that affect people of color) online with no real purpose. You will throw up a Facebook filter in support of a recent tragedy, because everyone else in your timeline did – yet you say nothing of value about the subject. It is creating a hashtag in outrage of a world event or tragedy, but the movement lives and dies on social media and never gets traction in real life. Moreover, it is when you lurk looking for opportunities online to force your political agenda, views and/or hatred for others, but you stand for nothing in real life.

None of this helps anyone if you don’t say something or even better do something when tragedy faces us as a society. I was asked in a recent interview if I worry about tackling controversial topics and whether or not it will impact business. I replied with a smile and said the following: “I am at a point in my business where I am happy to work with businesses with whom I have synergy. I don’t say anything that isn’t rooted in fact, so if they aren’t pleased with my approach they can always hire the next gal.”

While I have no desire to live in the pits of controversy day in and day out, I know that I have a following and influence. I also know that having influence puts you in a unique space to educate people and raise awareness. To be in that unique space, you need to have the courage to speak up for those who cannot or who would be otherwise ignored.

There are plenty other instances when we can laugh at absurd videos, marvel at babies and kittens and have fun while being social beings. 2016 is calling us to be more than the latest viral video or business tip we are discussing for the thousandth time. Speak up, add value, educate, collaborate with a social organization to raise awareness. Do something, but do not be silent.

Some more perspective…

I have two Caucasian friends who have been in communication with me since the killing ensued in early July and if I’m honest every killing of a black person prior to as well. Their words were kind, loving and supportive. When I say “lift every voice”, say something or do something, it doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor. It can be a simple text, email or phone call to show support or merely to listen and better understand why many of us are fed up. Just don’t be silent.

My way of doing something is to educate and speak out. I will be doing just that when I return to my Periscope.tv show Ask Czarina Live this Thursday night. I will be hosting “The Black Out” Show. It will be a show to educate and to have a civil conversation about what’s going on in this country. If you are up at 11pm EST and want to join in follow the instructions in my promo graphic. Let’s be better than what I see playing out online, in real life and in the news.

Ask Czarina Live- The Black Out Show

 

 

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Discrimination & The Hiring Process

Image courtesy of Flickr.com

 

On Wednesday 9/9/15, Steve Levy and I kicked off the first of three webcasts hosted by College Recruiter called: Honest Diversity Conversations. The aim of these webcasts is to step outside of the realm of the typical diversity conversations. We want to open the eyes of business owners and HR practitioners alike to the issues and missed opportunities that exist when we don’t consider the impact of what’s going on in society, their homes and most importantly the impact of our policies and procedures.

Last week marked our second week of Honest Diversity Webcasts. Our focus in the second webinar was on Discrimination and The Hiring Process. It’s easy enough to direct people in their job search. Preparing them for the potential injustices that lie ahead is less prevalent. It is very clear that even in an age of information, many candidates are still unclear about what their rights are and what actions they can take when faced with discriminatory activity.

From an employer standpoint, ensuring a fair hiring process means being able to take an objective look at your hiring process regularly to make sure your intentions match what is in practice. There is also an opportunity for employers to define what success in hiring looks like and measure against it. Without looking at data, it is clear that some employers can make assumptions about the efficiency of the hiring process and/or success of diverse people within their organizations. Diversity and Inclusion practices are not checklist items. It should be interwoven into how you operate in business. You need to be dedicated to ensuring that people of all demographics can be successful in being hired and retained.

In this webcast we discussed the less obvious ways candidates are discriminated against. We also tackled the trend of diversity mentorship programs and answered whether most diversity training is short-sighted. Check it out and join the conversation.

 Register for the final webcast in this series on “Bias Leadership” here . We hope you will join us. 

Honest Diversity Conversations Recap: Race Relations and HR

 

Courtesy of Canva.com

Courtesy of Canva.com

On Wednesday, Steve Levy and I kicked off the first of three webcasts hosted by College Recruiter called: Honest Diversity Conversations. The aim of these webcasts is to step outside of the realm of the typical diversity conversations. We want to open the eyes of business owners and HR practitioners alike to the issues and missed opportunities that exist when we don’t consider the impact of what’s going on in society, their homes and most importantly the impact of our policies and procedures.

One of the questions we didn’t get to was:

“Speaking of the racially-fueled riots in cities around the US, we can imagine most companies being tight-lipped about what was going on. In your opinion, does the company have a duty to address social issues of the moment?”

Allow me to answer. Remaining tight-lipped about the racially-fueled topics of late is both a mistake and missed opportunity. When 9/11 happened 14 years ago, there was not a person that I encountered at work or after 5pm that did not want to discuss what happened. I suspect that was the case because we were so blind-sided by the event. However, I also believe it was a constant conversation because it was not just an attack on one demographic; but an attack on people from all walks of life.

The fact is unless an event affects the majority we tend to ignore it or minimize it. Likewise in HR, we tend to ignore racial undertones, sentiments and  even discriminatory speech until it is a bigger problem. In my opinion, companies have a duty to speak up about atrocities in society. However, I’d like to add that it is really a matter of preference and what you want to be known for. If you care that your employees see you as a company that genuinely cares about the trajectory of the human race; you may be inclined to tackle this. Conversely, if you don’t see current events or news headlines as connected to your business this may not be something you would address. Either way, all of us in HR must remember that silence is as much of an answer as a carefully crafted one.

If any of these recent events directly affect any portion of your workforce, they will remember your laughter and never-ending chatter during the typical and often-times nonsensical water cooler discussions. They will also remember that you said nothing- if that is what you choose. Both are equally damaging as we live in a time where social responsibility is an expected business competency.

Compliance and legal considerations aside, we work in the human side of business where it is inherently required that we ensure the well-being of our employees. It is our duty to see that people can come to work everyday as a whole person affected by the elements of life and society without judgment.

Steve and I had a spirited conversation about everything from HR not having the guts to have these conversations to why most diversity programs lack on this webcast. We hope you will join us for the remaining two webcasts. You can register here.

Check out the webcast replay below and join the conversation.

 

Want even more? Check out my preview of the “Honest Diversity Conversations” webcast series on “The Voice of Jobseekers” Podcast here.

Slacking on OFCCP Compliance

 

 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

By the fall of 2013, those of us in the federal contractor community were made aware of some significant changes coming down from the OFCCP. In good old OFCCP fashion, we were inundated with several new directives that were proposed with very little guidance to employers. Of course all of the major employment law firms went to town developing webinars and the like. Unfortunately, those did little to ease employer’s pains and added to the growing number of contractors in a vegetative state over the new compliance requirements. In January of 2014, I went to a conference in San Francisco to give a concurrent session as well as lead a roundtable on diversity and inclusion. During my roundtable, I asked for a show of hands as I attempted to ascertain how many federal contractors I had at the table.

What I found fascinating was all of the participants were federal contractors and when asked if they started reviewing and planning to comply by March 24th of 2014 as stipulated-they all gave me a resounding “no”. I attempted not to look astonished but nevertheless I continued sharing tidbits about things I was doing to get ahead of the new outreach and recruitment efforts analysis requirements. They all swore they were going to be on top of it when they returned to the office. I certainly hope that was true.

That was then and this is now…

We are now nearly one year into the new compliance and I still hear murmurs of companies not getting in OFCCP shape. If you haven’t started or are taking your sweet time- wake up! The audit list now has 22 items  you will be responsible for. Get ahead of it now and lessen your pain when you inevitably receive your notice.

My fellow HR colleagues usually hate me for this-but I believe that much of the pain felt in complying with OFCCP regulations is due to how we approach it. When you see these regulations as onerous ( and I agree some of it is) and fail to see what you get in return for your compliance (which is government money)- you will ultimately procrastinate in doing what is needed. If you treat hiring of minorities, females, individuals with disabilities and veterans as quotas, you will always be in a rut of trying to explain why your AAP goals don’t budge year to year. When you receive government money it is only right that you be held to a higher standard with regard to how you do business. If you take a little bit at a time and approach the requirements as both a business imperative and priority-it will become less burdensome.

Here are five pieces of OFCCP compliance that employers are slacking on:

1) Is your outreach and recruitment efforts rooted in quality or quantity ? You need to be consistently auditing your diversity outreach and recruitment process to see what works and what doesn’t. If you identify outreach activities that aren’t yielding candidates or hires- you need to be proactive and cease utilizing that outreach.

2) Have you revised your self-identification forms yet? According to the new regulations, you need to be asking applicants to self-identify both pre and post offer. This includes updates to include self-identification for Individuals with Disabilities (IWD). Get your OMB-Approved form here.

3) How are you handling reasonable accommodation requests during the hiring process? Be sure that your ATS works well with assistive devices and technologies in an effort to ensure that individuals with disabilities are give equal opportunity to apply and be considered for vacancies.

4)  Have they added your EO clause to all subcontracts? Get purchasing involved! This is another requirement that contractors are overlooking. Equal Opportunity clauses must be added to subcontracts, along with language that explains subcontractors obligations as a federal contractor.

5) What’s your hiring benchmark? The 7% goal for IWDs’ is a lofty goal for many businesses. My advice is set your benchmark and make sure it is attainable. If you set it at 5-6% you are just slightly below 7% and it looks admirable that you attempted to get close. It remains to be seen whether contractors will be penalized for playing it safe here.

Now that you have some food for thought, prepare yourself by doing mock audits. Also, encourage your recruitment teams to regularly audit their activities and raise any issues ahead of time so you can tweak things prior to an onsite or offsite audit. Good luck!

The Real Scoop on How Diverse Candidates Perceive Their Value

As we continue to discuss diversity and inclusion concerns, it is important that companies that are serious about attracting, retaining and promoting diverse candidates understand how we think about our value in the workplace.

From a child, it was drilled into me that my skin color was not a roadblock, but an opportunity often seen as a threat. I was warned that I would have to work a gazillion times harder than any of my Caucasian counterparts to achieve success. To round out my coaching on getting ahead, I was advised to keep my head on, study hard, keep things formal on the job, work hard and it would all pay off.

More than a decade into my career, I see that my cultural and familial coaching has served me fairly well. In speaking to other minority colleagues over the years, I know that they were also told many of the same things growing up and have also found success in those tidbits. It might be sobering to read, but a person’s only barometer for how life works is experience. Having emigrated to the U.S. from the West Indies and South America in and around the 70’s, I don’t have to tell you what it was like for my parents and grandparents to assimilate into the “American way”; let alone garner gainful employment.

The disconnect between what I was taught and my real life experience is and has been startling. For one, I have found that most employers have no clue that their minority employees are carrying all of this. It is like the worst, best-kept secret. Subconsciously, minorities often believe that employers see them as less of a value. That perception has caused me to over-compensate with efforts that have had no real correlation to my success.

When your message as a company is simply “we are an equal opportunity employer” this appears to be more employer semantics that really says nothing more than “we will hire you, because we must”. Furthermore, if minority representation at all levels is scarce; I have more proof that you aren’t truly dedicated to promoting a diverse workforce. All things validating what I have been told.

To further test the validity of what I have been told over the years, here has been my reality:

1) For over 50% of my career, I have been the only black woman either on my team, in the region or in the company I worked for.

2) I have traditionally made less in compensation than most of my Caucasian counterparts. How do I know? People like to talk about what they make, especially when they make a lot of money- so there’s that.

3) More than once, I have resigned from a job because I was overlooked, overshadowed and underutilized in my job. This was in stark contrast to the applause for other Caucasian employees that were not nearly as productive or useful as I was.

4) I went to college, possess several certifications pertinent to my field as well as Master’s credits and have been managed three or more times by Caucasian women and men who not only possess less education than me, but have benefited from my efforts.

5) Lastly, I have had to fight for simple luxuries and leniency that was afforded to my Caucasian co-workers with no contest.

For the most part, minorities have been urged out of necessity to be better than everyone else to get ahead. To some extent, it is great advice. However, it becomes disheartening when being better isn’t the standard for everyone else and doesn’t result in the desired outcomes. It would help companies to market themselves and attract diverse candidates-if they understood how we approach our work in thought and practice. Once you understand, you have to have a genuine willingness for changing these cemented impressions, realities and perceptions.

The end game of diversity and inclusion has to be understanding and execution. If you don’t get that ‘diverse’ isn’t just a buzzword but a broader meaning for different- you aren’t ready to have a discussion about diversity. Companies have to be willing to identify, understand, and embrace the differences that exist among employees before they endeavor inclusion initiatives.

The truth is I have always navigated my career in excellence, because that is my standard. I have done this despite the unfair circumstances I have been met with. I’m not a fan of pulling the race card, but if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…you know the rest.  Also, when my knowledge, skills, abilities, and efforts are shelved for the purposes of rewarding other people’s mediocre efforts; it is hard not to see the truth in what I have been told.

As you consider you own diversity and inclusion efforts, how will you ensure that your diverse employees are fairly and equitably supported and recognized for their efforts?

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